If we’re talking about Christmas traditions in Puerto Rico, perhaps there is no melody that better represents it than the “Villancico Yaucano” (Yaucano Carol) by Amaury Veray Torregrosa. It is an indisputable musical quality masterpiece that has reached the ends of the earth, making Puerto Rican culture and folklore known around the world.
The work was composed on Monday, December 24, 1951 and premiered at midnight at the rooster mass of the Santísimo Rosario church in the town of Yauco. On that Christmas Eve, Veray contacted the singer María Amelia Lugo Espiñeiro de Vivaldi to perform the carol he had composed. What neither of them would suspect is the unparalleled success of this carol. Such a success, that today is considered one of the most sublime compositions of Puerto Rican music.
Sadly, Veray did not have the opportunity to see his music flourish to the recognition we enjoy today. It wasn’t until almost a year and two months after his death that this work would be performed by no other than the acclaimed Spanish tenor, Placido Domingo and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in Austria. After this, the international recognition of this work has been indisputable.
Curiously, sometime before Veray went to rest, some historians questioned the authorship and origin of this composition. However, in an interview for the National Foundation for Popular Culture, the same Veray explained: “The first part of the text is traditional Spanish, that’s not mine. Where my thing begins is: I am a poor Yaucano… I spent some time in my part, in the metric. What I borrowed from anonymous Spanish folklore were the first two quatrains.”
Without a doubt, this carol is and will be one of the Christmas works of Puerto Rico that immortalizes the humility and the giving nature of the Puerto Rican people to the traditions of the time. Today, almost 67 years after its creation, we celebrate the holidays with enthusiasm and joy, remembering the music that our country has given us. Music, which transcends time and will continue to enrich the culture of a people that never stopped being.
Amaury Veray Torregrosa was born in Yauco, Puerto Rico on June 14, 1923 and died on October 30, 1995 in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
Here I share my interpretation of this beautiful theme, in a guitar adaptation of Dr. Hermelindo Ruiz-Mestre. Enjoy it!
For more information on the subject, please visit the following links: (Spanish only)